After the recent General Elections, Singapore’s parliament is now represented by two parties – the People’s Action Party and the Workers’ Party, both of whom have served in Singapore’s parliament from a long time back.
The Workers’ Party had contributed to Singapore’s first foray into politics with Singapore’s Chief Minister, David Marshall before Singapore’s government was eventually led by Lee Kuan Yew of the People’s Action Party.
Since then, Singapore has been ruled under the governance of the People’s Action Party with minimal representation from other parties, namely Workers’ Party and Singapore Democratic Alliance.
Singapore’s political landscape also saw changes as Single Member Constituencies (SMC) were merged to form the Group Representation Constituencies (GRC). The GRC system is unique to Singapore and serves to ensure that a minority race is represented in parliament as each GRC is required to have at least one member who is non-Chinese (Singapore’s population demographics is roughly about 70% Chinese).
Opposition parties have often contested the reason given behind the GRC system as before every General Election, the GRC boundaries are redrawn. Opposition parties have claimed that the GRC system was formed to ensure that the PAP remains the majority in parliament under the pretence of ensuring a minority is represented but that fallacy has since been broken with WP breaking PAP’s run in the GRC by capturing Aljunied GRC.
With that, Singapore now has 6 opposition members as Members-of-Parliament (MP), the most in Singapore’s history since independence from Malaysia in 1965 (all from Workers’ Party). In addition to that, there are also 3 other opposition politicians (Lina Chiam from Singapore People’s Party and two others from Workers’ Party) in parliament sitting in as Non-Constituency Members of Parliament (NCMP) bringing a total of 9 non-PAP MPs in parliament.
Having broken PAP’s stronghold in the GRC system, the Workers’ Party will be the most closely watched opposition party for the next 5 years. Whilst gaining a foothold in the GRC may be viewed as a success for the Workers’ Party, it also puts them under tight scrutiny of Singaporeans who adopt the wait and see approach to vote for opposition parties in the next elections.
Success or failure of the Workers’ Party in Aljunied GRC will cast in stone on Singapore’s future. Failure or an unsatisfactory performance by the WP over the next 5 years will only allow the PAP leadership to downplay the opposition’s credibility and ability to be MPs despite the impressive slate of candidates put out.
Currently, the WP is faced with several challenges; establishing Aljunied GRC Town Council, merging Hougang SMC and Aljunied GRC Town Council offices together and ensuring that Hougang and Aljunied GRC electorate remain confident of their abilities to manage the two town councils effectively as well as the ability to present or debate extensively in parliament on national issues concerning Singaporeans.
A success story by WP in the next 5 years will see more Singaporeans gaining confidence in the abilities of the opposition and this may translate to votes for the opposition, which may result in more opposition in parliament considering that the PAP didn’t perform well at the last General Elections.
A failure by WP will no doubt result in Singaporeans losing confidence in opposition MPs, which will take a hard knock on the rest of the opposition parties who intend to contest at the General Elections.
An unsatisfactory WP may see splits between Singaporeans. A split between one group which would be willing to give a second chance to WP whilst another could be more unforgiving and choose to vote for the PAP instead, should the PAP be better than WP of course.
Regardless of parties contesting, Singapore’s political landscape has changed with the introduction of new media and with a more connected and youthful Singapore, Singaporeans are less reliant on state media reports as these are often considered propaganda tools used by the PAP.
The new media has shown what it is capable of in the recent elections – instant reporting of reactions on the ground which opposes state media reports as well as unearthing past history of several politicians by Singaporeans themselves, this could have never been achieved in previous elections as much of the information relayed came from state media.
PAP’s challenge for the next 5 years will be to improve their presence on the internet to win over voters whilst the challenge for opposition parties will be to keep up with their presence online and to continuously engage the community to translate the support online to offline.
The question now is, how will new media be used post-elections since we have a new Minister at MICA, Dr Yaacob Ibrahim.
What is his direction for media as a whole and what does he plan to do with new media to manage growing criticism of the PAP.